By the 1980s it was becoming clear that the approach to advancing performance that existed during the “engine wars” needed to be organized and directed in order to make the harder-to-discover advances in materials and processes. Some of this direction came in the form of large programs such as the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) and the High Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) Programs but was most successful in the long-term, stable funding environment of the Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology (IHPTET) Program and its concomitant materials development support programs in the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Navy.
IHPTET’s structural materials advances did not start from scratch, however. Promising materials candidates identified in the NASP Program, and continued through the High Speed Civil Transport–Enabling Propulsion Materials ( HSCT-EPM) Program (a stable, modestly funded program), ensured a stream of viable materials candidates at the high 6.2 technology readiness level (TRL). Also, IHPTET was created when considerable talent and facility capabilities, left over from the engine-war years, still existed. A “feeder” program that matures fundamental discoveries to high 6.2 TRLs no longer exists (see the discussion in Chapter 2), and talent has been diffused and facilities decommissioned. In addition, the development time to mature fundamental discoveries to high 6.2-level materials candidates has changed little, whereas the time required for engine development has decreased owing to the use of integrated product development teams and computational methods. The fact is that even if a new IHPTET-like materials-development program were linked to a long-term, stable engine-demonstration program, there are few materials candidates remaining to mature. Nevertheless, the successes of the IHPTET Program created a mind-set within both the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and the Propulsion and Power Directorate of the AFRL that led to the materials development plan addressed in Chapter 3 and discussed below in Section 5.2.
It is no surprise, then, that the three critical characteristics of a successful materials development program identified by the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, as discussed in Section 3.6 of this report, primarily concern programs associated with engine development programs, with no real emphasis on stable, ongoing research directed at advancing 6.1 materials and processes to the high 6.2 TRLs required to feed such a program should it materialize. In fact, there seems to be no organization within the AFRL concerned with transition programs; the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), charged with funding all discovery research in the Air Force, places essentially all of its attention on research with “20-year horizons” and has virtually no concern about where its funded efforts go after a 6.1 program ends. In fairness to the AFOSR, its organizational mind-set, like that of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, was formed during a time when talent, facilities, and resources for transition work were abundant and transi-